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D&D General D&D monsters that have been changed the most over time

1) Actually exercise discipline over the art. There was a lot of variants in how artists did kobolds over the years, which spawned a lot of confusion. But the text descriptions in the monster books (like the 2e Monstrous Compendium Volume 1) gave them "dog-like" heads and scaly bodies. Compare the canonical 1e MM image and the canonical 3e MM image, and tell me how much changed other than art style?
I mean, I'd say a lot had changed myself. Prior to 3E there was no clear indication they were even "reptilian", per se. They're scale-y, sure, but this is D&D and lots of things are, and they have horns, and are consistently drawn in a non-reptilian way. I can't think of a single "reptile-style" kobold prior to late 2E/early 3E. You can even see a dog-nose on the example you have from 1E, and ears! The 2E description from the MM doesn't mention them as reptilian at all, just scale-y (they lay eggs, but so do some mammals), but they have "rat-like" tails, smell, like dogs, yap like dogs, and so on.

Whereas in 3E, we basically have a humanoid dinosaur (procompsognathus-inspired), with tiny horns for the sake of acknowledging it's a Kobold, having lost the ears, mammalian nose (or flat face of some of the 1E/2E kobolds) and ratlike tail, and so on.

Re: Draconic I guess the big change with 5E is that they clearly decide "Okay, they're reptilian" and abandon the mammalian characteristics they previously had. Hence them speaking Draconic not their own language or Orc/Goblin. So not draconic out of the game, but solidly reptilian out of the gate.

So then given their association with dragons from Dragon Mountain, and Meepo and so on, we see the actual decision is somewhere in the 2000-2003 range as confirmed by Race of the Dragon (not sure why Mongoose's book would matter - they had no special insight did they? Or did WotC people work on it?).
 
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In 3rd Edition, they keep nasty and hate giants too. But, they shrink from Large to Medium. In 2005, we get the option to play gnolls, because Drizz't did it so why not? Is that why they had to shrink?
Gnolls (including Flinds) were first playable in 1993, with the Complete Book of Humanoids. Unlike some, PC Gnolls may be of any alignment, too. I mean, technically we can still blame Drizzt, because even by 1993, he was a thing (indeed in some ways he was more "a thing" in 1993 than 2005), but I very much doubt that's why they shrunk. I suspect that was simply because Large meant a hell of a lot more in 3E, mechanically, than it did in 2E.
 

I think someone had an entire thread about all the 4e setting lore on rpg.net it was more detailed than you might think.
The default 4E setting was ostensibly started out as a bare bones setting that DMs could customize as they saw fit, but in practice the sheer amount of content released during 4E's short lifespan filled things out pretty quickly. What made it unique, though, is that in an effort to try and keep the Material Plane (or mortal world, as it was more often called in 4E) relatively undefined, a lot more detail was given on the rest of the multiverse and its denizens. Details about the world itself were often hidden away in books dedicated to PC options like the various "x Power" books and magazine articles. It wasn't until after the Conquest of Nerath board game that articles about different nations in the world and a world map were presented; before then, fans of the implied setting hunted references and collected them piecemeal.

A poster on RPG.net created a good number of Let's Read threads that compiled information, and there are others available there as well:
Let's Read 4E Setting Lore
The Complete Guide to the World Axis
4E's Faces of the Planes
Let's Read 4E Monster Articles
Let's Read 4E Racial Supplements
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
The default 4E setting was ostensibly started out as a bare bones setting that DMs could customize as they saw fit, but in practice the sheer amount of content released during 4E's short lifespan filled things out pretty quickly. What made it unique, though, is that in an effort to try and keep the Material Plane (or mortal world, as it was more often called in 4E) relatively undefined, a lot more detail was given on the rest of the multiverse and its denizens. Details about the world itself were often hidden away in books dedicated to PC options like the various "x Power" books and magazine articles. It wasn't until after the Conquest of Nerath board game that articles about different nations in the world and a world map were presented; before then, fans of the implied setting hunted references and collected them piecemeal.

A poster on RPG.net created a good number of Let's Read threads that compiled information, and there are others available there as well:
Let's Read 4E Setting Lore
The Complete Guide to the World Axis
4E's Faces of the Planes
Let's Read 4E Monster Articles
Let's Read 4E Racial Supplements
It reminds me of how Greyhawk came into existence. What began as random incompatible options, eventually evolved into an "everything is true" systematized canon.
 

Nightmares have had some interesting variations. The beyond-excellent Power Score RPG has a good article on them, A Guide to the Nightmare, though the author does note they seem to be an underutilized monster.

2262enightmare.jpg
dx20061222_dec.jpg


Interesting to see that the nightmare went from an emaciated horse with only flaming hooves to an impressive steed with flaming mane and tail.

The 3E Monster Manual established the existence of greater, Huge-sized nightmares called cauchemars (which is the French word for nightmare). Pathfinder retained the cauchemar but made it more unique by making the ability to enter the Ethereal Plane an exclusive trait of cauchemars rather than all nightmares.

In 4E, all nightmares are said to be the progeny of two immortal parents: Sin's Reward, the greatest nightmare of the Nine Hells, and Thunder of Hooves, a huge, many-legged nightmare that roams the Abyss. When the urge takes them, the two travel to the Shadowfell to mate, the resulting foals split between those that follow Sin's Reward to the Hells, those that follow Thunder of Hooves to the Abyss, and those that remain in the Shadowfell. 5E presents a simpler but more wicked origin for the nightmare: they are pegasi whose wings have been torn off in an evil ritual.

I'm not certain which origin I like more. The defiled pegasus angle works for me, but I also like the idea of Sin's Reward and Thunder of Hooves (though there's no reason the pair couldn't still exist as unique nightmares even with the defiled pegasus origin).
 
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Hussar

Legend
For all the hoopla over 4e's changes to the races, 5e makes a LOT of flavor changes to races. Kobolds are now a slave race to dragons. Minotaurs are completely rewritten. The Basilisk got a LOT more spikes and a color change and suddenly can be trained and domesticated. If you actually start doing some side by side comparisons, 5e is a major reworking of pretty much every single monster.

But, for me, the biggest change of any monster is the Piercer becoming the Darkmantle.
 

Richards

Legend
Funny you should mention that. When I was writing "The Ecology of the Darkmantle" for Dragon, I immediately made the connection between the two species but wasn't allowed to formally acknowledge it at the time. In my mind, everything that had come before (in previous editions) should still be true, but the WotC team was more of the position that this was a whole new game and that things that were once true could easily be reworked - like infravision becoming darkvision. (At the time, they hadn't yet decided whether the Demiplane of Shadows was going to be an actual plane or remain a demiplane so I wasn't allowed to mention it and my idea of piercers being warped on the Plane of Shadows and returning to the Material Plane as a new species was nixed.) But with the small handful of new monsters being introduced in 3.0 I was provided (I was writing my article with only the bits of draft documents that would eventually become the three core books for 3.0), I went with the darkmantle specifically because the very first "Ecology" article ever had been "The Ecology of the Piercer" and I thought using the darkmantle for the first 3.0 "Ecology" had a nice symmetry to it.

Johnathan
 



For all the hoopla over 4e's changes to the races, 5e makes a LOT of flavor changes to races. Kobolds are now a slave race to dragons. Minotaurs are completely rewritten. The Basilisk got a LOT more spikes and a color change and suddenly can be trained and domesticated. If you actually start doing some side by side comparisons, 5e is a major reworking of pretty much every single monster.
It is kind of funny that 5E in terms of mechanics was a step back from the changes 4E made but in terms of lore has itself become pretty different. There was probably an expectation that 5E would continue on from the lore that 3E had carried over from 2E, but instead it made changes such as yugoloths being commissioned by Asmodeus rather than the original fiends (when even a late article in 4E, the edition where most yugoloths were folded into demons, mentioned that the yugoloths were rumored to have once been the first fiends who eventually got subsumed into demonkind).

Late 4E did a bit of work trying to establish the default setting as sort of an alternate timeline version of the older established lore for the Multiverse. The article that reintroduced the Modrons even included a portion about how their progenitor, the Prime Architect, attempted to transform the Elemental Chaos into discrete Elemental Planes before being thwarted.

Speaking of the modrons, here's the quadrone in 1E, 2E, and 4E:

Quadrone-1e.png
dae491e4bb7ed7cd61d4a813e4e99306.jpg
4e_modrons_-_Craig_J._Spearing.jpg
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Nightmares have had some interesting variations. The beyond-excellent Power Score RPG has a good article on them, A Guide to the Nightmare, though the author does note they seem to be an underutilized monster.

View attachment 139772View attachment 139773

Interesting to see that the nightmare went from an emaciated horse with only flaming hooves to an impressive steed with flaming mane and tail.

The 3E Monster Manual established the existence of greater, Huge-sized nightmares called cauchemars (which is the French word for nightmare). Pathfinder retained the cauchemar but made it more unique by making the ability to enter the Ethereal Plane an exclusive trait of cauchemars rather than all nightmares.

In 4E, all nightmares are said to be the progeny of two immortal parents: Sin's Reward, the greatest nightmare of the Nine Hells, and Thunder of Hooves, a huge, many-legged nightmare that roams the Abyss. When the urge takes them, the two travel to the Shadowfell to mate, the resulting foals split between those that follow Sin's Reward to the Hells, those that follow Thunder of Hooves to the Abyss, and those that remain in the Shadowfell. 5E presents a simpler but more wicked origin for the nightmare: they are pegasi whose wings have been torn off in an evil ritual.

I'm not certain which origin I like more. The defiled pegasus angle works for me, but I also like the idea of Sin's Reward and Thunder of Hooves (though there's no reason the pair couldn't still exist as unique nightmares even with the defiled pegasus origin).
In 1e, they were pretty impressive and not emaciated. That was a 2e change.
C3131C88-A9AF-4682-A78F-69C4691D4013.jpeg
 

Talking about modrons leads me to an even greater example of change over the editions in both design and lore: the marut.

Marut-2e.jpg
Inevitables3e.jpg
Maruts-4e.jpg


Marut-5e.jpg


Maruts in 2E, 3E, and 4E are all creatures of inflexible law that appear to be made of stone. In 2E and 3E in particular, the maruts enforced the inevitability of death.

3E folded the marut into a new group called the inevitables, which were effectively one of two replacements for the modrons as the inhabitants of Mechanus along with the formians (not to be confused with the older fomorians). The marut as an inevitable maintained its role as enforcer of death and a punisher of those who would avoid it, whereas the other inevitables focused on enforcing other laws of the multiverse.

4E got rid of the inevitables but effectively expanded the role of the maruts to encompass their former role. No longer merely enforcers of the inevitability of death, the 4E maruts were created by an alliance of gods (bodies crafted by Moradin and souls crafted by other gods of Law) to be impartial arbiters in terms of disputes between the gods, the creators of the first written language (which put the language of the gods into writing), and enforcers of order throughout the Astral Sea. With Mechanus not yet introduced into 4E, the maruts became a presence throughout the Astral Plane with multiple fortresses of law in which contracts were stored and protected, the two greatest being the Tower of Judgement (where the first and most powerful marut was said to dwell) and the Bastion of Inevitiability, which maps the Astral Plane thanks to its ability to teleport vast distances whenever any explorer of the plane enters a new, unmapped location. When the modrons were brought into 4E towards the end of the line they and the maruts were able to coexist without infringing on each other's conceptual space, the maruts being impartial arbiters of law between the lawful gods and the modrons being the components of Primus, a more alien form of law beyond the gods.

5E brought about the most radical change to the maruts, nearly completely reinventing them. Now more metallic than stone and bearing a slight visual similarity to the modrons (with very little coming from the designs of previous editions), the 5E maruts are stationed in the Hall of Concordance within Sigil. A unique being called the Kolyarut (which in 3E was a kind of inevitable rather than a unique individual) dispatches maruts to punish violators of agreements that were made before the Kolyarut. The 5E marut is also a veritable powerhouse at CR 25, capable of dealing a constant amount of damage with each attack and even forcibly teleporting itself and up to two targets to the Hall of Concordance in Sigil.

Personally, I like the 4E take on the marut the best as arbiters of law that even the Lawful gods defer to, as well as their wider distribution and number of roles they can fulfill in a campaign where exploration of the Astral Plane occurs. They also helped to populate the Astral Sea of 4E, fitting in alongside githyanki, angels, and corals. The 5E marut has a unique design and its sheer power is notable, but they seem like they would be very limited in terms of when a DM could actually use them due to having such a very specific purpose and enormous power that eclipses that of several demon lords. I'm honestly a bit curious what the thought process was behind making 5E maruts so limited in scope. Even if you ditch their link to the Hall of Concordance they're so powerful that I'm struggling to think what else you could use them for other than serving as Mechanus' equivalent to pit fiends or something.
 
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It is kind of funny that 5E in terms of mechanics was a step back from the changes 4E made but in terms of lore has itself become pretty different. There was probably an expectation that 5E would continue on from the lore that 3E had carried over from 2E, but instead it made changes such as yugoloths being commissioned by Asmodeus rather than the original fiends (when even a late article in 4E, the edition where most yugoloths were folded into demons, mentioned that the yugoloths were rumored to have once been the first fiends who eventually got subsumed into demonkind).

Late 4E did a bit of work trying to establish the default setting as sort of an alternate timeline version of the older established lore for the Multiverse. The article that reintroduced the Modrons even included a portion about how their progenitor, the Prime Architect, attempted to transform the Elemental Chaos into discrete Elemental Planes before being thwarted.

Speaking of the modrons, here's a 2E quadrone versus a 4E modron:

View attachment 139777View attachment 139778
it is trying way too hard to not be goofy, but the legs and arms are much better.
 

it is trying way too hard to not be goofy, but the legs and arms are much better.
True, though it makes some sense given that 3E had previously ignored modrons completely (other than a late 3E Dragon magazine article) in favor of focusing on the inevitables and formians. 4E attempted to bring them back while also trying to make people take them more seriously (although that could also have been done by featuring the more freakish modron varieities, like the decaton).

Monodrone (kinda cute)
Monodrone.jpg


Decaton (OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?!)
Decaton.gif
 

True, though it makes some sense given that 3E had previously ignored modrons completely (other than a late 3E Dragon magazine article) in favor of focusing on the inevitables and formians. 4E attempted to bring them back while also trying to make people take them more seriously (although that could also have been done by featuring the more freakish modron varieities, like the decaton).

Monodrone (kinda cute)
View attachment 139789

Decaton (OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?!)
View attachment 139788
that is a massively inefficient design reminds me of this video on them
 

True, though it makes some sense given that 3E had previously ignored modrons completely (other than a late 3E Dragon magazine article) in favor of focusing on the inevitables and formians. 4E attempted to bring them back while also trying to make people take them more seriously (although that could also have been done by featuring the more freakish modron varieities, like the decaton).

Monodrone (kinda cute)
View attachment 139789

Decaton (OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?!)
View attachment 139788
Wow that monodrone is so perfectly in the DiTerlizzi style I didn't realize it wasn't him until I saw the "Paizo" then went "Huh?" and looked at the artist name. Good though, his take was iconic, and the 4E take is ludicrous in that it just draws attention to the issues. I mean, is that a Modron or is that The Goddamn Batman?

If D&D isn't allowed to have ridiculous outer planar beings anymore though, frankly I quit. I mean, it's better than 3E's attempt to delete them by stealth (BOOOOOOO! I blame Regdar. We all know Regdar only listened to nu-metal and pop-punk and thought Modrons were "lame, man") but come on. Getting rid of Modrons for not being cool enough is the deleting Devils/Demons of the 21st century.
 



Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
As to Gnolls Lord Dunsany wrote a short story called "How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art upon the Gnoles" so I always thought Gnoll came from that,

Yes. The Gnome/Troll is a false etymology from this. Found in the White books and not after.

As far as I'm aware, gnolls effectively being demons wearing humanoid hyena skins was a 5E invention. ...

Gnolls pretty much morphed in 5E, for whatever reason, into the ideal version of an "always Chaotic Evil" mortal race; no young to worry about, essentially being demons made flesh through exploding out of corrupted natural beasts, intrinsically-linked to the essence of a demon lord, etc.
There's good evidence that it was Mearls specifically who wanted to exclude them as a playable 5e race. A lot of discussion in and around Volo's, and with tweets about the conscious decision to remove them from play, covered with non-explanations like "in our lore" or reference to "the data I have". (The first link also hints at another race "that might fill a similar role [to the gnoll]" but looking at Volo's I have no idea what he is thinking of with that comment; another red herring?)
 

Voadam

Legend
I mean, I'd say a lot had changed myself. Prior to 3E there was no clear indication they were even "reptilian", per se. They're scale-y, sure, but this is D&D and lots of things are, and they have horns, and are consistently drawn in a non-reptilian way. I can't think of a single "reptile-style" kobold prior to late 2E/early 3E. You can even see a dog-nose on the example you have from 1E, and ears! The 2E description from the MM doesn't mention them as reptilian at all, just scale-y (they lay eggs, but so do some mammals), but they have "rat-like" tails, smell, like dogs, yap like dogs, and so on.
Scales and lays eggs could be considered a clear indication. It is a matter of interpretation if their old art is reptilian such as the head ridge and hairlessness of the dog-like B/X kobolds from 1981.

1625504550701.png


"These small, evil dog-like men usually live underground. They have scaly rust-brown skin and no hair."

Here is the 1e DMG 1979:

1625504799893.png

And the 1979 1e MM's other picture of kobolds:

1625504887193.png


I considered the old art as indicative of humanoid reptiles with dog like faces.
 

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